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Capone calls 50/50 the most emotionally satisfying film of the year so far!!!

Published at: Sept. 30, 2011, 12:45 a.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

One of the oldest cliches in film criticism is the classic adage "You'll laugh, you'll cry." I'm pretty certain I've never used that expression in my career... until now, because there is truly no better way to describe the cancer comedy 50/50, based on small doses of the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, a TV writer and producer who was diagnosed with cancer when he was still in his 20s, and also happened to be good friends with Seth Rogen, who co-stars in the film as the lead character's best friend. What are the odds?

50/50's main character is named Adam, and he is played by the can-do-no-wrong Joseph Gordon-Levitt, certainly one of the most likable and most capable actors of any age working today. Adam is living a good life as a segment producer for a local NPR station, with a beautiful artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his aforementioned buddy Kyle (Rogen). The diagnosis comes early in the film, and what we get is something you rarely see in disease-oriented films on the big screen—a young person with a chronic illness who goes through the traumatic experience of aggressive treatment. And it's a comedy, which is a brave and necessary approach that draws us in and makes us not just like, but love, these characters.

While Rogen takes the lion's share of the comedic relief, some of the best serious moments in 50/50 belong with Levitt meeting his rookie therapist Katie (Anna Kendrick, the Oscar-nominated actress from UP IN THE AIR). Adam hides behind humor and simply isn't comfortable opening up to even his closest friends and family about the deeply rooted fear he's feeling during this process. But when he's with Katie, he opens up while clearly falling for her at the same time, a dangerous prospect but one we tend to support because we want something good to happen to this guy. And Kendrick's insecurity about being able to handle patients that may die is palpable and honest.

Adam's tribulations range from his girlfriend not being able to handle being with a sick guy to the devastating impact of chemotherapy to his overbearing mother (Anjelica Houston, seeming to step right out of a Wes Anderson film) wanting to move in to care for her son. As much as I love the relationship developing between Adam and Katie, the film's heart—believe it or not—belongs to the men. The friendship between Adam and Kyle is so much fun to watch, and it changes and deepens as the film goes on. The many times I was tempted to cry the most involved what was going on between these two pals, and I think each audience member is going to respond to different scenes in different ways depending on their history with similar circumstances in their lives. The film doesn't manipulate (much) or tell you when to feel something deeply; it happens organically and beautifully.

Director Jonathan Levine (ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, THE WACKNESS) has a perfect knack for refusing to leave a scene until we've learned something new about the characters in it. 50/50 doesn't work unless the character development is deep and fluid. In a strange and fun way, we're not sure that Adam is going to come out of this experience any more enriched as a human being; he seemed pretty great before cancer, so there's no need for a transformation. But that doesn't take away from any of the splendor of the movie, which feels authentic, heartfelt, and full of life. In the end, this is a story about friendship, and I consider 50/50 one of the most emotionally satisfying films of the year.

-- Capone
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:49 a.m. CST

    Cool

    by dukeroberts

    I can't wait to see it.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:51 a.m. CST

    Dang, Capone!

    by dukeroberts

    You are tearing it up tonight! Do you do all of your columns over the course of the week or do you do them all at one time and then rat-tat-tat them onto the site or what?

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:55 a.m. CST

    CANCER IS HILARIOUS!!!!

    by ass clown

    THIS MOVIE REALLY COULD BACKFIRE IF THE TRAILER IS ANY INDICATION ABOUT HOW THEY HANDLE THE SERIOUS SUBJECT MATTER, BUT WHO AM I TO JUDGE. I WANT AN AIDS COMEDY DAMNIT. GIVE ME A DISEASE WITH SOME SERIOUS HUMOR VALUE LIKE AIDS, BIRD FLU, OR LEPROSY. IF I GET ZACH GALIFINAKIS IN AN AIDS MOVIE, I WILL FORFEIT MY $10 OR $15 FOR 3D.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 1:05 a.m. CST

    You'll laugh, you'll cry

    by Jason

    You'll kiss 10 bucks goodbye!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 3:39 a.m. CST

    This website sucks

    by stelios kantos

    AV Club is better. They're also way cooler.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 3:39 a.m. CST

    You'll laugh, you'll cry

    by loafroaster

    You'll hurl.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 6:05 a.m. CST

    Does he die at the end?

    by fred

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 6:43 a.m. CST

    jackpulliamiii

    by TheManWhoCan

    yes

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 6:44 a.m. CST

    jackpulliamiii

    by TheManWhoCan

    just kidding<p> I havn't seen it, im just fucking with everyone! he could die, who knows?

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 6:45 a.m. CST

    he gets the all clear!

    by TheManWhoCan

    Then gets killed in a car accident!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:19 a.m. CST

    Already saw this movie...It was called "Funny People"

    by ReefShark

    And Seth Rogen was in it too. RECYCLED MATERIAL AND ACTORS...HOLLYWOOD IS GETTING LAZY.

  • It's my only gripe with him, i know people talk funny sometimes but it's painfully annoying to watch sometimes and i really want to like him more cos he's been fucking funny in some movies.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:24 a.m. CST

    Shut the fuck up reefshark

    by NightArrows

    You were recycled from discarded condoms and abortion coat hangers.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:44 a.m. CST

    Skip

    by Bodacious_Crumb

    Another attempt at pushing the "comedy genuis" of Seth Rogen on us. No thanks.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:44 a.m. CST

    Yeah reefshark

    by gotilk

    MOO

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:51 a.m. CST

    I agree, Capone.

    by Paul Dronet

    Saw the film last night. It was terrific! Everyone should check it out.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 8:29 a.m. CST

    Great movie

    by Peter Kellen

    For me, it wasn't "you'll laugh, you'll cry". More like, "you'll laugh, you'll blubber so uncontrollably you have to apologize to the people around you with a giant snot bubble coming out your nose".

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 8:37 a.m. CST

    The best film of the year IMO

    by Christopher Moore

    This film took a dark subject and was able to find humor around the situations and characters. It's a brilliant film and Joseph Gordon Levitt deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best film of the year.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 8:38 a.m. CST

    Thanks Capone for stealing my review

    by vancejf1

    ...and for spoiling the ending in your interview. Awesome! I can't wait to do another write up for AICN!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 9:27 a.m. CST

    kingoflight

    by Nice Marmot

    My only gripe is his stupid laugh. And if JGL wasn't in this you'd all be ripping it to shreds. ALL OF YOU!!!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 10:50 a.m. CST

    the doctor who was supposed to remove my cancer got cancer

    by Spandau Belly

    I'm not joking. Alanis Morissette should write a song about this. I was supposed to have my cancer removed in a few weeks, but then the doctor who was supposed to do it got cancer too. So now I've been referred onto another doctor in February. I'm thinking of just cutting it out myself.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Great attitude, spandau

    by Peter Kellen

    "I'm thinking of just cutting it out myself". Love that. After watching my dad live for five years with cancer that was supposed to kill him in 6 months, I've become convinced that cancer is just a big, fucking bully. If you show you're not scared of it, it's stops being so fucking menacing. One time, my dad drove us to the airport. As he pulled up, my mom said, "I don't think you can park here". He replied, "Sure, I can" and pointed to a sign. It said, "Terminal only".

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 11:41 a.m. CST

    It's Fudgepack Friday!

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    Today's contestant is ... NICOLE KIDMAN! So, CHOPlings, does Ms. Kidman allow meat cannons to fire Down Under? Let's hear it!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Too bad they stole the idea

    by filmtopia

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:18 p.m. CST

    Brian Cox's best Cancer role since Funny People

    by Nick

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Wow some of you are stupid.

    by DrBathroomMD

    The screenplay is based on the life of writer Will Reiser, friend and co-writer of one of the film's stars, Seth Rogen.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:43 p.m. CST

    You will laugh, you will cry, you will wish you got cancer

    by Nick

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 12:57 p.m. CST

    dorothymantooth

    by Kelly Grimes

    Haha! Great story, dorothy. Your dad sounds like a helluva guy.

  • ....because I just started seeing ads for it in the last week. In a way, its kind of refreshing, not getting pounded over the head, being told why you should like something for months before its release.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 2:01 p.m. CST

    I'm tired of this movie already...

    by Andrew Coleman

    The trailer just does not impress me. That part in the bar where he tries to use "I have cancer" bit falls so flat when Rogen starts with... "I was wrong". I think this is one of those movies that everyone wants to be good, so they just say it is, then when you see it, your friends say it's good because it's the "trendy" movie. I'm not very sure about this one. Doesn't seem worth it to spend almost $10 to see it.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 2:57 p.m. CST

    Will Eisner was friends with Seth Rogen?

    by alan_poon

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 3:35 p.m. CST

    After Milton Berle died, I was kinda sad

    by Crimson Dynamo

    I thought I'd never hate another celebrity again the way I hated Milton Berle. Thank you, Seth Rogen

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Oscar bait!!! Oscar bait!!! Oscar bait!!!

    by HollywoodHellraiser

    Now all we need is a Jewish picture reminding us, once again, of their courage, devotion to family and friends, and the evil German empire!

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 5:26 p.m. CST

    Good movie almost ruined by Seth Rogen

    by GodMars

    It seemed like he was in the wrong movie.

  • I thought that was a movie with Seth Rogan about a guy who was supposed to be dying.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 6:48 p.m. CST

    natalieportmansyummyafterbirth

    by CherryValance

    JGL said that the writer guy is really Paul Reiser's cousin.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 7:01 p.m. CST

    Or maybe people are saying the movie is good becuase its good

    by Lovecraftfan

    Wow a movie thats minimally hyped on the site yet it still gets hit with tired snarky cynicalness. How depressing.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 8:13 p.m. CST

    both my parents died BRUTAL deaths of cancer...

    by Dead Snoopy

    ...no desire to see this regradless of the marketing & most people in my shoes won't be disagree. Good luck with the opening week-end box office.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 9:32 p.m. CST

    Just saw it today

    by darksith

    Pretty good and as someone who got cancer in their early 20's this year, pretty much went with the emotional roller coaster I personally felt. (Not meaning to turn this into one of Harry's "personal childhood stories" ha ha ha)

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 10:04 p.m. CST

    I loved it

    by sharpie

    I don't see it as a comedy or a drama, it's just one of those movies that just feels real. And if you've ever lost someone close to cancer, it really emotionally resonates.

  • Sept. 30, 2011, 11:40 p.m. CST

    Maybe it's good because it's good?

    by Andrew Coleman

    Sorry but the trailers make this look dull and not inspiring or funny. I also didn't like this movie when it was called "Funny People" so why would I like it when it's called "50/50"?

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 4:12 a.m. CST

    So you write off a film purely based on the trailer?

    by alan_poon

    More fool you then.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 12:02 p.m. CST

    ONLY because of Joseph Gordon Levitt....

    by ThisBethesdaSea

    I CAN'T FUCKING STOMACH SETH ROGEN and his same characters and mannerisms he brings to EVERY character he's ever played. In Knocked Up he was awesome. Then I quickly realized he was the same in every film since then.

  • Oct. 1, 2011, 5:28 p.m. CST

    So wait - Seth Rogen was the same in Superbad as in Knocked Up?

    by FluffyUnbound

    Wow, I really didn't see that character arc in Superbad. Maybe I should watch it again.